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Livestock TB testing requires planning

With the downgrading of Minnesota's TB accredited status, livestock producers throughout the state should make sure that their marketing plans are not side-tracked because they did not meet the TB testing requirements or missed testing timelines for their animals.

In discussion with Park Rapids veterinarian Dr. Kevin Haroldson of Back Roads Veterinary Clinic, the following are some practical suggestions for livestock producers:

1. Make sure to check with the sales barn you go through, or the feedlot/farm you're selling to as to what they will require. Federal requirements are minimum requirements. States and individuals are completely within their rights to require more than what the Federal requirements are.

2. Plan to test 3-4 weeks before you want to sell.

n Surrounding states require a negative test on feeder cattle and breeding cattle within 30 days (Iowa) or 60 days (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin) of shipping. In addition, at this time both Wisconsin and North Dakota require a negative 'Whole Herd' negative test within a year of shipping.

n TB testing involves an initial injection and the reading of that injection site 72 hours later. The test is such that 3 to 5 percent false positive results are expected. Finding of such, are classified as "suspects" and result in quarantine of the entire herd until the State Veterinarian comes out to retest just the suspects. This could take up to two weeks, so plan accordingly. Note: At this time all suspects in this area have tested negative on retest. But realize false negatives are going to occur, and so, plan accordingly time and facility wise. (i.e. a pen to keep the suspects in until retested).

3. Cost is variable but can be expected to average $10-$12 per head plus two mileage charges. (Check with the Veterinarian in your area) Variables that could raise the cost are:

n Insufficient help to keep animals moving thru resulting in the need to charge per hour instead of per head.

n Insufficient setup. At least a chute and head gate setup would be necessary. Remember the test must be done on the base of the tail on the left side of the animal. The veterinarian will want to be outside the chute and must be able to reach the left tail-head safely.

n Important: No other practices such as vaccinating, worming, and treating, are allowed to be done during the injection day, as this could cause the test to be invalid. This could be done on the day the tests are read, but you need to ok this with your veterinarian ahead of time. The test is quick to read and additional time to do other work to the animal could result in additional charges that are not figured into the initial per head cost.

4. Check your scheduling ahead of time because the testing is done one day and then read 3 days later. This will mean in most cases testing will be done on Monday, Tuesday or Friday with subsequent reading on the following Thursday, Friday, or Monday.

5. All animals tested must be ear tagged and identified with a metal Minnesota 'Hasco' type tag. Again check to make sure your veterinarian has these on hand before testing if needed.

To avoid any hang-ups in getting your cattle sold, it is important that producers know what the buyer requires relating to TB testing. Make sure to check with your veterinarian and sales barn or buyer ahead of time to meet their requirements and stay atop any changes that may occur. A good source of information for TB in the state is the Minnesota Board of Animal Health website:

If you have any questions, contact the website or call your veterinarian.

Sources of information for this article are Kevin Haroldson, DVM, from Back Roads Veterinary Clinic in Park Rapids, and Will Yliniemi, Hubbard/Becker County Extension Educator, who can be reached by phone at 1-218-732-3391 or 1-218-846-7328, or by cell at 1-218-252-1042 as well as by e-mail at